FEATURE: Rawlings at Reconciliation Commission

– Ghana’s Ex-President Appears Before A Human Rights Commission

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In a historic appearance, Ghana‘s former president, Jerry John Rawlings, has testified before the country’s National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) – failing to produce (the requested) two tape recordings of the interrogation and execution of one of the members of erstwhile Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), and three high court judges in the heat of the military uprising he led in the early 1980s.

The hearing, the most high-profile since the establishment of the Commission a year ago, bore its hall marks in all respect: crowd, chaos and confusion within the premises of the Commission.

Slated to start at 9.am local time (last Thursday), the premises of the old Parliament House, where the hearing was being held, was besieged as early as 6.am by hundreds of people most of them supporters of the opposition National Democratic Congress ( NDC).

The national security apparatus could not have done better. The deployment of full security detail with some mounting on horses almost in combat readiness, battled hard to control the unruly crowd – some of whom begrudged the ex-president looking for every iota of chance to vent their anger on the ‘‘old man´´.

Yet as the former president’s convoy approached the premises (of the Commission), the overwhelming crowd of NDC supporters, most of whom dressed in party colours following Rawlings‘ convoy, stired up further chaos as the ex-president drove into the presmises and made his way into the chamber.

As expected, he sountered into the Hall at approximately 9.30 am with a cream of legal brains to slug it out with the Commission’s counsels. Led by Dr. Benjamin Kumbour of the NDC, the team included Dr. Josiah Aryeh NDC General Secretary, Mr. Tony Lithur, as well as Hon. Mr. Kenneth Dzirasah, Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament.

The Commission had subpoened the former president to produce two tapes on the executions of Corporal Halidu Giwa and Lance Corporal Andrews Bamfo Sarkodie-Addo among others at the the Airforce base in Accra in 1984.

Mr. Rawlings was to as well produce an audiotape containing the confession of the late Joachim Amartey-Kwei, a member of the erstwhile Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), who had been executed for his alleged role in the murder of three High Court Judges and a retired army Major on June 30, 1982.

It was Hozaifeh’s evidence, plus that of Naval Officer Baafour Assasie Gyimah – along with petitions made by Mr. Kwabena Agyei Agyapong, Presidential Press Secretary and son of the late Mr. Justice K. Agyei Agyapong, one of the murdered Judges, and Madam Yaa Adjei, the wife of the late Sarkodie-Addo , which made the Commission to subpoena the ex-president to appear before it along with the tape.

Shortly before the hearing commenced, tension was visibly high in the fully-packed chamber – with many hoping to see the hearing come to an end with the ex-president’s security intact.

When Dr. Ken Attafuah the Commission’s Executive Secretary invited former President Rawlings to take the wittness seat, the crowd in the heavily-filled public galleries literally went hay-wire – bursting into loud applause, slogans and catcalls for or against the ex-president.

Resplendent in a light green designer-shirt with brown trouser and black shoes to boot, the ex-president, with his imposing and charismatic demeanour, was initially calm, confident and well- composed as he took the wittness seat.

The cat-calls continued. It however took the stern warning of the Commission’s chair, Mr. Justice E. Amua- Sekyi, to bring the situation under control.

Only after a few minutes of questioning by the Commission’s counsel, Mrs. Juliana Ewuraesi Amonoo-Neizer, the wittness turned into vintage Rawlings: a synthesis of oratory, theology and pop-psychology to a point of near sarcasm – sent the greater part of the fully-packed chamber to either cheers, applause or laugther.

After asking the wittness to introduce himself and his military registation number among others, the ex-president was to a large extent, forthright.

However, when asked what was his job, the former president dished out a comic relief: ‘‘I am unemployed´´, he said, and laughed for a great measure.

When asked if he had the tape recording of the executions with him, the ex-president poped up almost emotionally:‘‘I am trying to tell you that I do not have the tape, it could have been with the late Regimental Sergent Major (RSM) Tetteh and the security apparatus´´.

Rawlings further told the Commission that another tape containing the confession of Joachim Amartey-Kwei, former PNDC member recorded at his execution for his alleged involvement in the murder of three High Court Judges and a retired army officer, could not be traced.

He however, revealed to the Commission that he personally taped Amartey-Kwei’s confession to enable the latter to tell the truth and ‘‘ cleanse his soul before meeting his creater´´.

But the ex-president expressed fears that the films might have been destroyed in a fire outbreak at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) some years ago.

On the audiotape however, he maintained that: ‘‘ When that thing got missing I can’t say´´.

The former president said however, that he had a number of tapes on socio-economic issues at his residence – daring the Commission to send its officers to come and examine the contents, whilst sarcastically telling members of the Commission that :‘‘ I can assure you that your machines would get destroyed´´ – triggering yet another hilarious moments of laugther and applause.

Mr. Rawlings further said even years ago when his former security chief, Captain Kojo Tsikata (rtd) needed the tape to boost his defence in a court case against the London Independent, he searched for it but could not trace it.

After Rawlings gave his evidence for just 25 minutes, members of the Commission declined asking him further questions – which created some mumurings, and a near confussion in the chamber.

Justice Amoah Sekyi, the Commission’s chair, then thanked Mr. Rawlings for appearing before the commission and explained that the ex-president was subpoened to produce the tapes, but there was no need to proceed further since he could not produce them.

Visibly amazed at the sudden behaviour of the Commission, Mr. Rawlings asked : ‘‘Oh Sir, Why? Is that all?´´

As the members of the commission left the chamber, the ex-president fixed a serious – almost furious glance at them, giving an impression of a click conspiring to get him.

Outside the chamber, it was a mix feeling of victory to his sympathisers as well as defeat to his loathers. And the scene could not have been most chaotic. NDC supporters singing party songs, escorted the ex-president to his residence – only to stage a mini ‘‘victory rally´´.

The ex-president, mounting on a van, rapped the NDC faithfuls about ‘‘ the enemies of the truth´´ and the need to vote them out of office in elections later this year.

When I later congratulated him, he responded : ‘‘ thank you sir. .They (the ruling New Patriotic Party – NPP) want to embarrass me. They have written in the internet that I am roaming the world requesting for a refugee status´´.


In another development, Captain Kojo Tsikata (rtd), Rawling’s former National Security chief and member of the erstwhile PNDC, also appeared before the Commission two days earlier to deny all allegations about his involvement in the execution of the three high court judges and the army officer.

Tsikata said the allegations against him by the Special Investigation Board (SIB) – set up to investigate the murder of the three judges and the army major, were a political conspiracy to remove him from his position in order to pave the way for the overthrow of the then PNDC government.

The former national security chief went on to mention Justice Azu Crabbe, Chairman of the SIB, Mr. Lindsay, Reverend Dzobo, the late Mr. Quist, J.J. Yidana and Oduro, as those who were aided by some members of the police group to frame him up.

He therefore appealed to the NRC to give him the chance to confront all those who implicated him in the murders. Adding that: ‘‘ A fair , non-political investigation, will vindicate me´´.

The evidence given to the commission by the ex-president, who even said he watched excerpts of the tape, would go a long to convince all sceptics who still consider Mr. Hozaifeh’s evidence as a hearsay.

Yet, the mere fact that an ex-president in today’s Africa could willingly respond to a subpoena, gives a clear indication that democracy has not just come to stay in Ghana, but has been entrenched.

Analysts say that the ex-president might be called back as and when the Commission, after examining all other key evidences, deems it fit.

For now though, only the truth, could, if really told, put to rest the haunting ghost of the past.